[Beowulf] How to make a BeagleBoard Elastic R Beowulf Cluster in a Briefcase

Lux, Jim (337C) james.p.lux at jpl.nasa.gov
Thu Sep 16 13:21:06 EDT 2010


Why, having a Beowulf Cluster at home is the modern equivalent of "want to come and see my etchings" of the 50s and 60s..You haven't noticed the human eye candy at the local bistro following you around when you mention you have a grid engine in your briefcase? 

But more realistically.. you do it to say you've done it.  There *is* a certain amount of coolness to it.
And, there are some easily partitionable problems to run on such a thing. I've used a small toy cluster to run multiple runs of antenna models using NEC (although, I confess that when I upgraded my desktop computer to be faster, it actually got to be easier to let the multiple cores of the PC grind on it)...

There is a weird sort of problem when you look at low power/compact computing which tends to result in clusters with small numbers of nodes... the market moves fast enough that the single processor can beat the cluster pretty quickly (much more so than in big clusters... a 4x faster portable computer beats the 8 node portable cluster, but the same does not apply to a 1000 node cluster.. )

So what you need are problems that are computationally complex enough to need many nodes AND also need a low power cluster solution (for packaging reasons).  I did have such a problem about 5-6 years ago that I was funded to work on (distributed processing in a phased array antenna to calibrate out variations in shape/performance) for a couple years, but ultimately, nobody needed an antenna with that performance, so, while it was cool, it didn't have a customer.

I have thought that one good application for this sort of thing would be field processing of seismic or other geophysical data (conductivity, soil Electromagnetic properties), however, there you are competing against the other system design of "create high bandwidth data link and send data to somewhere to be processed".  Cheap communications can change a lot of things:  Who would have thought that it would be cheaper/easier/better to fly remote controlled airplanes from halfway around the world than from somewhere local.  Turns out, once you have a radio that can send the data back and forth, say, 10km, it's no more difficult to do it via a satellite and then send it anywhere you want.  (Latency *is* an issue... viz the discussion on Slashdot this morning about pigeons carrying microSD cards vs rural broadband in the UK... the "station wagon full of tapes" popped up quickly, along with the inevitable discussions about why weren't they using swallows, etc.)

There are a lot of Embarassingly Parallel (EP) tasks that could be useful to impecunious field scientists: What about taking 3D scans of pot sherds and figuring out how to put them together? And maybe the "stone souper computer" approach of using heterogenous surplus computers provides a non-capital-intensive way to get it done (since sending lots of data via satellite is expensive, and sometimes personally risky, in some places in the world)


Jim Lux

> -----Original Message-----
> From: beowulf-bounces at beowulf.org [mailto:beowulf-bounces at beowulf.org] On Behalf Of lsi
> Sent: Thursday, September 16, 2010 8:52 AM
> To: Eugen Leitl; Beowulf at beowulf.org
> Subject: Re: [Beowulf] How to make a BeagleBoard Elastic R Beowulf Cluster in a Briefcase
> 
> Cute, but my question is, what use is one of these homegrown
> platforms?
> 
> Certainly if it was commercialised that would be a beasty compute
> appliance... but that's not my question - I'm asking, what is the
> role of the home hacker in the HPC world?
> 
> I mean, it's fine to go and make one of these things, but once you've
> made it, what do you use it for?
> 
> I ask as I presently have a "grid engine in a briefcase" sitting idle
> in my cupboard, fun to make but as I have no datasets to crunch, it's
> not even particularly good-looking eye candy!
> 
> I joined this list to get the answer to this question...
> 
> Stu
> 
> On 15 Sep 2010 at 11:05, Eugen Leitl wrote:
> 
> Date sent:      	Wed, 15 Sep 2010 11:05:44 +0200
> From:           	Eugen Leitl <eugen at leitl.org>
> To:             	Beowulf at beowulf.org
> Copies to:      	Subject:        	[Beowulf] How to make a BeagleBoard
> Elastic R Beowulf Cluster in a
> 	Briefcase
> 
> >
> > http://antipastohw.blogspot.com/2010/09/how-to-make-beagleboard-elastic-r.html
> >
> > --
> > Eugen* Leitl <a href="http://leitl.org">leitl</a> http://leitl.org
> > ______________________________________________________________
> > ICBM: 48.07100, 11.36820 http://www.ativel.com http://postbiota.org
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> ---
> Stuart Udall
> stuart at at cyberdelix.dot net - http://www.cyberdelix.net/
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> ---
>  * Origin: lsi: revolution through evolution (192:168/0.2)
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